Brightening Up Chocolate’s Dark Side | 

Joe Whinney and Theo Chocolate factory
Tom Paulson

Welcome to the Humanosphere podcast, our weekly look back at the world of global health and development. This week we discuss the Obama administration’s new foreign budget proposal, plus Madonna’s celebrity philanthropy gone awry in Malawi.

But our focus is on the delicious dark sweetness we call chocolate – how’s it made, who makes it, where it comes from, and the ethics or lack thereof behind it.

Joe Whinney, founder and President of Seattle’s own Theo Chocolate, gave us the lowdown. Whinney is an industry veteran who bore witness to the extreme poverty and abusive business practices suffered by cocoa farmers in the Global South. In 2006, Whinney founded his own chocolate company with a commitment, he says, to organic and fair trade chocolate that equitably compensates farmers and their families.

We had some questions: Are corporate social responsibility programs actually accomplishing any good? What does “fair trade” certification really mean? What about labor practices in Theo’s Seattle factory? How can consumers drive ethical business practices? And what does the future of chocolate look like?

Whinney doesn’t mince words. Listen to find out.

Produced by Ansel Herz.

Fighting slavery, war and child abuse on Valentine’s Day | 

Flickr, qthomasbower

It’s getting tough to do the right thing on Valentine’s Day.

How do you avoid buying blood diamonds or chocolate made from the work of child slaves? Even the carefree purchase of flowers for your loved one can, if you dig a bit deeper into where they came from, cause cupid to wince. To wit:

Bloomberg: Making sure that Valentine Diamond isn’t tainted with blood

Mercury News: Does your chocolate come from slave labor?

Atlantic: There’s a 1-in-16 chance your flowers came from child laborers

So far as I know, nobody has identified any abuses or social harm from buying a card for your loved one. But what should you do if you would like to get one of these typical gifts for a loved one?

Last year, I wrote this piece on How to avoid the dark side of buying chocolate, which was big news at the time due to the fact that the cocoa industry was alleged to have been funding one side in the civil war roiling Ivory Coast at the time.

Here are some other articles aimed at helping you make socially responsible VD purchases:

HuffPo The women behind your flowers

ONE Six suggested Valentine’s Day gifts

Good Valentine’s gifts that aren’t evil


How to avoid the dark (chocolate) side on Valentine’s Day | 

Flickr, Bob Fornal

“Everybody loves chocolate.”

That’s the first line of a documentary film called “The Dark Side of Chocolate” in which the film-makers investigate the use of child laborers, slave laborers, on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast where 42 percent of the world’s chocolate production is managed by four leading international corporations.

Using a (sometimes hidden) camera, these journalists interview child traffickers in Africa, representatives of leading chocolate makers and government officials to document the ongoing abuses.

“It moves you to tears,” said Joe Whinney, founder and owner of Seattle’s Theo Chocolate, which bills itself as the only organic, fair trade “bean-to-bar” chocolate manufacturer in the U.S. Continue reading